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Archive for the ‘Universal (-International)’ Category

Directed by King Vidor
Starring Kirk Douglas, Jeanne Crain, Claire Trevor, William Campbell, Richard Boone, Mara Corday, Jay C. Flippen, Eddy Waller, Sheb Wooley, George Wallace, Roy Barcroft, Paul Birch, Jack Elam, Myron Healey, Jack Ingram

Kino Lorber has announced the upcoming Blu-Ray release of Man Without A Star (1955). That makes two U-I 50s Westerns announced within a week of each other. I’d sure like to see that trend continue.

Kirk Douglas put the movie together through his new production company, and it made him a lot of money. The picture’s got a great cast — look at all those character actors! It was shot by Russell Metty in Technicolor to be cropped to 2.00 to 1, a short-lived standard at Universal (This Island Earth and The Mole People were also 2:1). Highly recommended.

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Directed by Nathan Juran
Starring Ronald Reagan, Dorothy Malone, Preston Foster, Alex Nicol, Ruth Hampton, Russell Johnson, Chubby Johnson, Dennis Weaver, Tom Steele

It’s good to have another 50s Western making its way to Blu-Ray. It’s been a bit of a desert out there. Shout Factory has announced a July release for Nathan Juran’s Law And Order (1953), a solid Technicolor picture from Universal-International. The DVD is quite nice and I’m eager to see how much better Clifford Stine’s gorgeous cinematography comes off in high definition.

Ronald Reagan’s a fed-up lawman who decides to hang up his guns. But you know how those things work out — soon he’s having to strap em back on to settle an old score. Reagan’s cool, Dorothy Malone is beautiful in three-strip Technicolor, and director Nathan Juran settles in for a good run of Westerns at U-I.

I don’t care what your politics are, a Universal 50s Western is coming to Blu-Ray — and that always gets my vote. Recommended.

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VCI Entertainment has announced the upcoming (May) Blu-Ray release of two terrific 15-chapter Buck Jones serials from Universal — The Red Rider (1934) and The Roaring West (1935).

The Red Rider was directed by the prolific Lew Landers. This was one of his first pictures. Buck’s co-stars in this one are Grant Withers and Marion Shilling. As you might expect, Monte Montague’s around, too.

The Roaring West is from director Ray Taylor, who did a number of serials, including The Green Hornet and Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe (both 1940). Early in his long, prolific career, he was an assistant director for John Ford.

Both are sourced from original 35mm fine grain material — and both will feature first-chapter commentaries from yours truly. And if all that’s not enough, they’re bringing out The Vanishing Shadow (1934), too. Boy, am I excited about these.

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Directed by Anthony Mann
Starring James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Julie Adams, Rock Hudson, Lori Nelson, Jay C. Flippen, Harry Morgan, Royal Dano, Stepin Fetchit, Chubby Johnson

Kino Lorber has given a solid release date for their Blu-Ray of Bend Of The River (1952) — April 16, 2019.

This is the second of the Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart Westerns, and a very gorgeous thing in Technicolor. Which of the Mann-Stewart Westerns is best is a matter of personal taste, and probably a good way to get an argument going among fans of this stuff. But it’s easy to say that they’re all among the finest Westerns ever made — and absolutely essential.

Providing a commentary for this release was indeed an honor, though in retrospect, wish I’d spent more time on Julie Adams. And while I have the chance, I want to thank Glenn Erickson of cinesavant.com for his help on this one. We got a back-and-forth email thing going about Bend Of The River that really helped me pull stuff together. Thanks, Glenn.

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Directed by George Sherman
Starring Joel McCrea, Yvonne De Carlo, Pedro Armendáriz, Howard Petrie

There’s a company in France called ESC Editions, and they’ve started announcing some upcoming Universal Westerns on Blu-Ray. One of those is George Sherman’s Border River (1954), one of the six terrific Westerns Joel McCrea made for Universal. The comments around here have been buzzing about this thing, and for good reason — to have these coming to high-definition is a big deal.

I’ll post more information — aspect ratio, region, etc. — as it’s verified.

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Directed by Anthony Mann
Starring James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Julie Adams, Rock Hudson, Lori Nelson, Jay C. Flippen, Harry Morgan, Royal Dano, Stepin Fetchit, Chubby Johnson

The second of the Anthony Mann/Jimmy Stewart Westerns, and a very gorgeous thing in Technicolor, Bend Of The River (1952) is coming to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber. I’ll be putting together a commentary for it, and I can’t tell you what an honor that is.

Which of the Mann-Stewart Westerns is best is a matter of personal taste, and probably a good way to get an argument going among fans of this stuff. But it’s easy to say that they’re all among the finest Westerns ever made — and absolutely essential.

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Produced and Directed by William J. Hole, Jr.
Written by James Edmiston and Dallas Gaultois
Cinematography: John M. Nickolaus, Jr.
Music by Alec Compinsky

Cast: James Craig (Tom Sabin), Martha Vickers (Mary Hoag), Edgar Buchanan (Dipper), Brett Halsey (Johnny Naco), Paul Richards (Hoag), Richard Martin (Quijano), Blu Wright (Farmer Brown), John Swift (Zodie Dawes), Paul Raymond (Bartender)

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One of my favorite things about early CinemaScope pictures: those long takes. If the Scope picture is a cheap one, with setups kept to a minimum to save money, then you can count on even more long takes. And that brings us to Four Fast Guns (1959). It’s a cheap little B&W Scope Western released by Universal-International.

The premise is terrific. A town tamer is on his way to Purgatory when he comes across Tom Sabin (James Craig). Sabin ends up gunning the guy down, then rides on to Purgatory and takes on the town tamer job. Purgatory’s run by Hoag (Paul Richards), who owns the saloon — he’s who the townspeople want “tamed.” Hoag writes to three notorious gunmen, offering each $1,000 to kill Sabin. (He even asks Sabin to mail the letters!) All three show up, and all three end up locking horns with Sabin. When the last fast gun, Johnny Naco (Brett Halsey), turns out to be Sabin’s brother — and Hoag’s wife Mary (Martha Vickers) admits she’s in love with the town tamer, things get complicated. It all makes for an interesting 72 minutes.

James Craig does a good job in his take on the world-weary gunfighter. This is a common theme in 50s Westerns, of course — ranging from Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter (1950) to Fred MacMurray in Face Of A Fugitive (1959). Not a lot of time goes into the relationship between the Sabin brothers, but it’s well done. It’s another angle you see quite a bit in these films — Night Passage and Fury At Showdown (both 1957), for instance.

Four Fast Guns was Martha Vickers’ last feature. I’ll never forget her in The Big Sleep (1946). She’d do a couple episodes of The Rebel, then retire. Her scenes with Craig are well done. Mary’s love for Sabin doesn’t come out of the blue. It actually makes sense, thanks to the performances and the script from James Edmiston and Dallas Gaultois.

It was a unique idea to put Hoag in a wheelchair, and it’s great to see Richard Martin, as one of the fast guns, do a serious take on his Chito character from the Tim Holt pictures. Edgar Buchanan is as dependable as ever as Dipper, who serves as Sabin’s makeshift deputy. His character could’ve easily become a liability, but he keeps things in check most of the time.

John M. Nickolaus, Jr. shot Four Fast Guns. He also shot a few Regalscope pictures, including Showdown At Boot Hill and Desert Hell (both 1958), so he certainly knew his way around B&W Scope. (The House Of The Damned, a cheap haunted house picture that Nickolaus shot for Maury Dexter, is worth seeking out.) The bulk of Nickolaus’ career was spent in TV, shooting many episodes of Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, The Outer Limits and more. The blocking of scenes within the wide frame, bringing real life to those long takes, is very effective.

Four Fast Guns is usually listed as a 1960 picture. But it played at the Palms Theatre in Detroit (with 4D Man) in December of 1959. Released by Universal-International, it was often paired with Operation Petticoat (1959).

I love cheap movies like this, where talent and ingenuity make or break the picture. (Today’s budget-equals-quality approach to cinema is why I rarely go to the movies anymore.) Four Fast Guns is available on DVD from Kit Parker Films and VCI Entertainment in two ways — first as part of their Darn Good Westerns set, then as a standalone DVD. Either way, it looks terrific and comes highly recommended. (I’d love to see it make its way to Blu-Ray.)

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